The conflict in the western Sudanese province of Darfur began in 2003 as tensions surrounding the use of land and water resources exploded between the sedentary tribes (Four, Masalit and Zaghawa, for example) and the nomadic Arab tribes. Two armed rebel groups were created to fight for additional rights for the disadvantaged tribes of African origins. The Sudanese government reacted with massive military operations and by supporting and arming the nomadic Arab militia, the Janjaweed (also known as “Fursan,” “Moujahadeen” and “Bashmerga”) in order to combat these rebels. This led to extremely violent violations of human rights as well as numerous attacks on civilian populations and targets. The report of the United Nations investigative commission on Darfur, published in January 2005, as well as those of numerous NGOs testify to the occurrence of mass executions, mass rapes, the expulsion of the civilian population, the destruction of villages by the Janjaweed, some with the direct support of the Sudanese government, but all with at least its tacit approval. Both sides of the conflict have mainly attacked civilians. It is estimated that 300,000 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the conflict and that more than 2.7 millions have been displaced. During 2008, there were more than 315,000 new internally displaced people and refuges in Eastern Chad.
After a number of unsuccessful negotiations, a peace accord was finally signed on May 5, 2006 in Nigeria with the help of the African Union between the Sudanese government and one of the rebel groups, Minni Minnawi’s Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA). Part of the SLA, led by Abdul Wahid, as well as Khalil Ibrahim’s Justice and Equality Movement refused to sign on to the accord at first, but finally ratified it in June 2006.
However, the situation in Darfur quickly unravelled after the signature of the peace treaty: the rebel groups who had not participated in the accord organized themselves into the National Redemption Front (NRF) and attacked an army stronghold in July 2006. The government responded by sending additional troops to the Darfur region in August of the same year. This led to more violent attacks against civilians by both sides.
Even measures taken by the international community have not succeeded in helping the situation. African Union troops stationed in the Sudnan since the end of August 2006 (AMIS) have not been able to stop the massacres and have themselves been under attack. Through resolution 1706 (2006), the United Nations Security Council authorized the transfer of UN troops (UNMIS) to the region. The Sudanese government refused this movement of personnel. By November 2006, African Union and UN troops joined forces in a hybrid mission which is still in Sudan today.
United Nations’ Security Council resolution 1593 (2005) compelled the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged crimes in the Sudan. This was not well receives in Khartoum. In fact, Sudanese authorities have refused to comply with the ICC’s investigtion even following injunctions to do so by this court. Although the Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute, it is obliged to comply with the ICC because resolution 1593 was adopted under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter. The day after the investigation began at the ICC, the Sudanese government created the Special Criminal Court on the Events in Darfur. A Human Rights Watch report published in June 2006 claimed that this parallel special court was created solely to derail the ICC investigation by abusing the principle of complimentarity enshrined in Article 17 of the Rome Statute.